A state appeals court panel Thursday upheld the convictions of two men for murdering a Tujunga resident in a drug deal that went bad in a parking lot at Los Angeles Valley College nearly three years ago.
The three-justice panel rejected the defense’s contention that jurors in the trial of Raheen Ahab Taylor and Derrick Phillip Wilson should have been instructed on lesser offenses, including second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter, in connection with the Jan. 25, 2014, shooting death of Ricardo Zetino.
“Defendants contend there was substantial evidence supporting the lesser charge of second-degree murder, based on a theory that the shooting occurred in reaction of Zetino’s act of chasing the (defendants’) Lexus and cutting it off, and not in the course of a robbery. We are not persuaded,” the appellate court justices found in a 17-page ruling. “There is absolutely no evidence to support a reasonable doubt as to whether the killing was committed in the course of a robbery.”
The appeals court panel also rejected Wilson’s claims that there was insufficient evidence to support the special circumstance allegation of murder during the commission of a robbery and that his life without parole sentence was unconstitutional.
Taylor is also serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Along with their convictions for first-degree murder, Taylor and Wilson were found guilty of three counts of robbery involving the 31-year-old murder victim and two others at the scene.
Jurors also found that Taylor personally discharged a gun in the commission of the crime.
“It was a drug deal gone bad,” Deputy District Attorney Edward Nison said after the two were convicted in July 2015.
Authorities said the choice of the college parking lot as a meeting spot was “random.”
A day after the killing, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies arrested the two at an apartment in San Jacinto, where deputies recovered two revolvers, including a .38-caliber revolver that was determined to have fired the bullets that killed Zetino, according to the appellate court panel’s ruling.
Taylor’s DNA also matched DNA found on the .38-caliber revolver, the appellate court justices noted.
–City News Service